WATCH THE SERIES: Predator

With the release of Prey, it’s time to break down all of the Predator movies in one place and try and figure out why I love this franchise so much when I outright hate at least one of these movies.

The inspiration for the film came from a joke that after Rocky IV, Stallone had run out of opponents on Earth. If they made another film, he’d have to fight an alien. Jim and John Thomas were inspired by that and wrote Hunter, which became Predator. One could argue that they had seen Without Warning, which is nearly the same idea, with an alien — armed with futuristic weaponry and also played by Kevin Peter Hall — on Earth to hunt humans.

Predator (1987): As Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” blares, helicopters carrying Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Poncho (Richard Chaves), Billy (Sonny Landham), Mac (Bill Duke), Hawkins (Shane Black), Blain (Jesse Ventura) and Dillon (Carl Weathers) lands in Central America to free a foreign cabinet minister and his aide.

On their way to the target, Dutch discovers a destroyed helicopter and three skinned bodies of a failed rescue attempt. After Dutch’s team decimates the enemy, including some Soviet officers, they learn that it was all a set-up by Dillon to get information from the enemy. Only one is left alive — Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) — so the team takes her to the extraction zone.

And this is where Predator flips the script.

Written by Jim and John Thomas (Mission to MarsExecutive Decision) and directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard, Last Action Hero), this film starts as a testosterone-laced ode to American firepower and then becomes a slasher, as the team is followed by an invisible, nearly-unstoppable alien hunter (Kevin Peter Hall) who has come from space just for the sport of hunting these soldiers.

There are so many stories about how JCVD was once the Predator. Why that ended is up for debate. Maybe it’s because Van Damme was only 5’9″. Or it could have been because all Jean Claude did was complain about the suit being so hot that he kept passing out. Or maybe the original design just didn’t work. The Stan Winston redesign? It’s as iconic as the xenomorphs of Alien, which the Predator would get to battling soon enough.

Predator 2 (1989): The beauty of Predator is that it starts as a war movie and suddenly becomes a slasher before you even realize it. It subverts the macho tropes of Arnold movies by inserting a killing machine that is tougher, better armed and just plain unstoppable. And that killer? He’s just here for sport.

So why do I love Predator 2 so much? Because it’s literally a grindhouse or Italian exploitation version of Predator. Instead of the jungle, we get a literal concrete jungle. Instead of Arnold, Jesse and Carl Weathers, we get character actors galore, like Danny Glover, Robert Davi, Gary Busey and Bill Paxton. It has the feel of RoboCop with a non-stop media barrage led by real-life junk TV icon Morton Downey, Jr. (“Zip it, pinhead!”), and a populace that is constantly armed and always looking for a chance to use it. It’s one of the few slices of the future where it feels like today — the technology is only nominally better and everything pretty much sucks for everyone. And holy shit, is it fucking hot.

The 1997 of this movie is really 2018, to be honest. Except LA is in the midst of a war between the Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels. It’s a perfect place for a Predator to hunt — and once that alien sees Lt. Harrigan (Glover) in action, it seems like it’s playing a game to capture the lawman as his ultimate prize. That’s when we meet Special Agent Peter Keyes (Busey), who is posing as a DEA agent, and new team member Detective Jerry Lambert (Paxton at his most manic).

There’s a scene where the Predator interrupts a voodoo ritual (the girlfriend screaming for her life is former Playboy Playmate turned porn star (that was a rare thing in the 1990s) Teri Weigel) and wipes out everyone, skinning them alive and taking pieces of them as trophies. One of the team, Danny (singer Rubén Blades) comes back to the crime scene, only to be killed by the camouflaged alien.

Harrigan starts tracking the killer, thinking he’s dealing with a human. He even consults King Willie (Calvin Lockhart, The Beast Must Die), the voodoo loving gang leader. That’s when we get that immortal line that Ice Cube sampled, “There’s no stopping what can’t be stopped. No killing what can’t be killed.” A short battle follows with an awesome two cut (literally) of Willie screaming and his severed head being carried away, continuing the scream.

Two massive action scenes follow: Lambert and team member Cantrell (María Conchita Alonso) battling a gang and the Predator on a train, then Keyes and his team battling the Predator in what they think is the perfect situation.

It comes down to Harrigan and the Predator battling one on one, from rooftop to buildings to a spacecraft. Harrigan overcomes the alien with its own weapons, then an army of other Predators appear (this made me stand up and cheer when I saw this 27 years ago in the theater) and one of them hands the cop an ancient gun as a trophy before they leave him behind. That gun is engraved “Raphael Adolini 1715,” a reference to the Dark Horse comic book story Predator: 1718, which was published in  A Decade of Dark Horse #1.

To be honest — a TON of this film is taken from Dark Horse’s Predator: Concrete Jungle. The first few issues feature  Detective Schaefer, the brother of Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer, as he and his partner, Detective Rasche, fight a Predator in New York City. And the inclusion of the Alien skull was inspired by Dark Horse’s Aliens vs. Predator series.

I love that Lilyan Chauvin is in this as Dr. Irene Richards, the chief medical examiner and forensic pathologist of Los Angeles. How woke is Predator 2? The main cop is African American leading an ethnically diverse team when that diversity isn’t an issue at all? Then you have a woman in charge of all pathology? How ahead of its time is this movie?

Adam Baldwin from TV’s Firefly has a brief role as a member of Keyes’ team. Plus, Robert Davi plays a police captain, Kent McCord from TV’s Adam-12 is a cop, Steve Kahan (who played Glover’s boss in four Lethal Weapon films) plays a police sergeant and Elpidia Carrillo reprises her role as Anna Gonsalves from the original in a cameo.

If you read the book version, you learn even more: Keyes recalls memories of speaking with Dutch in a hospital, as he suffered from radiation sickness. However, the soldier escaped, never to be seen again. Arnold himself escaped, refusing to do this movie because of the script, and he was nearly replaced by Steven Seagal and Patrick Swayze!

Director Stephen Hopkins went on to direct The ReapingLost in SpaceThe Ghost and the Darkness and Judgement Night (he also directed A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child before this). He had to recut the film twenty times to get an R rating! I’d love to see the uncut version of this. Shout Factory, how about it?

One of my favorite things about the film is this outtake. Stick through it to see Danny Glover dance along with some Predators!

Also: Holy shit, Gary Busey. He is in character the entire time, discussing how they’re hunting the Predator while also talking about it as a film. If this doesn’t make you love him, nothing will.

Watch the Series: Terminator

While he was making Piranha II: The Spawning, James Cameron was sick and had one of those weird dreams — this one was about a metal torso holding knives dragging itself from an explosion — and was inspired to make a horror movie. His agent didn’t like that genre. Cameron fired that agent.

Gale Anne Hurd, who had worked at New World Pictures as Roger Corman’s assistant, bought the rights to produce the movie for one dollar with the promise that she would produce it only if Cameron was to direct it.

The money came from John Daly, chairman and president of Hemdale Film Corporation, and the presentation had Lance Henriksen in a leather jacket with wounds on his face kicking open the door for Cameron.

As for where the idea really came from, well…

Writer Harlan Ellison “loved the movie, was just blown away by it,” but that was because it was a cocktail of two of his stories, “Soldier” and “Demon With a Glass Hand.” Orion Pictures, who put out the movie, settled with Ellison for an undisclosed amount of money and an acknowledgment credit in later prints of the film. Cameron was against Orion’s decision, yet he was told that if he did not agree with the settlement, he would have to pay any damages if Orion lost the lawsuit.

Regardless of where the movie came from, it was an instant hit.

The Terminator (1984): This movie made $78.3 million against a modest $6.4 million budget. It also made both director Cameron and star Schwarzenegger as entertainment superstars.

The Terminator (Schwarzenegger) has come to our time hunting a woman named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), while Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) has come back as well to ensure that she gives birth to man’s last hope, her son John.

That sounds like such a simple story but this is the very definition of well-told, as Cameron obsessed over the movie, delivering what could be one of the most perfect science fiction movies ever made. The scene while Arnold’s face is torn away to reveal the metal skull underneath is sheer movie magic thanks to the skill of Stan Winston and the mind of Cameron, whose sketch after his dream was used to bring the T-800 to cinematic existence.

Cameron and Herd’s experience working for Corman came in handy, as the final scene of Sarah driving away was shot without a permit. They told a cop that tried to ticket them that they were making a student film for UCLA.

T2: Judgment Day (1991): How do you think anyone making action movies felt after seeing this movie? Truly, nearly everything had been done by the end of it, a film that not only had tons of incredible stuntwork and special effects, but also a true heart behind it.

I often tell the story of my grandfather, who I saw get caught inside a burning car and not even flinch when all of the skin on his back was burned, who worked day and night inside a blast furnace, who rarely got emotional breaking down into tears at the end of this movie, making all of us leave the room so he could cry all by himself when Arnold’s T-800 melted itself down.

At more than one hundred million dollars, this was the most expensive movie ever made at the time, but it brought back five times that investment, owning the summer of 1991.

That budget was big before the movie ever started.

Back when James Cameron just wanted to get The Terminator made, he’d surrendered 50% of his rights to the film to the Hemdale Film Corporation. Things had not gone well, as Hemdale co-founder John Daly had attempted to change the ending of that movie and Cameron almost physically assaulted him. Also by 1990, Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gale-Anne Hurd and special-effects artist Stan Winston were all suing Hemdale for money they never saw for a movie that made nearly ten times its budget.

Complicating matters further was the fact that Cameron and Hurd had gotten divorced, with him selling the other half of the movie that he owned to her for $1 following their split.

Hemdale was experiencing financial difficulties and would eventually be forced to sell the rights to The Terminator, so Arnold worked with Carolco Pictures to purchase the rights. One of Carolco’s owners, Mario Kassar, said that the deal was the most he’d ever conducted, as Daly wanted $10 million for the rights, a number he believed was made up just to scare off anyone who wanted to buy it. Hurd was much easier to deal with, only requiring $5 million, but before filming had even begun, they were already in double digits of millions of dollars spent.

Kassar explained to Cameron that to make back this investment, the film would proceed with or without him; Cameron took $6 million to be involved and write the script. Caroloco nearly followed the Cannon model of pre-selling this movie as well as using tax breaks to make it happen.

After writing the script, Arnold didn’t understand why the T-800 had become good or why he’d stop killing humans. But he trusted Cameron and just had one request: “Just make me cool.”

As for the new enemy, the T-1000, it would be a mix of digital art and the physicality of Robert Patrick, who was a sleek predator compared to the bull in a China shop that was Arnold. And of course, Linda Hamilton would have to return as Sarah. She put herself through what she described as hell physically preparing for the role, as her character had been off the grid preparing for the end of the world. She summed up the movie’s emotional hook so well: “The T-800 is a better human than I am, and I’m a better Terminator than he is.”

In fact, that’s the most important lesson in this. If a machine can learn to value life, so can human beings. I’ve often thought of the mantra that film imparts at the end, “no fate but what we make” and its rejection of predestination for the truth of free will. That’s a big concept to include within a summer blockbuster, but hey, there it is.

Sadly, Caroloco would not survive the success of this movie. They finished 1991 with a net loss of $265.1 million, which was caused by the financial problems of its other films and subsidiaries. Four years later, they would file for bankruptcy and sell all of the assets, including this film, to Canal Plus for $58 million dollars.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003): James Cameron was interested in directing this movie, but ultimately didn’t work on it. Sadly, he had some ideas while making Terminator 2 3-D: Battle Across Time, seeing that theme park experience as the next step toward a third fim.

He no longer had any financia stake, as Andrew G. Vajna and Mario Kassar, who had produced Terminator 2: Judgment Day through Carolco Pictures, obtained the rights for the franchise as a result of Carolco’s liquidation auction and negotiations with producer Gale Ann Hurd. Yes, somehow they made money on the bankuptcy of Kassar’s company.

Director Jonathan Mostow made Breakdown and U-571 before this. Talk about an unenviable position, following James Cameron on a franchise that was universally loved.

Writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris met while at college, where both were editors of The Harvard Lampoon. Until their professional relationsip ended in 2015, they made plenty of movies, from small budget films like The UnbornSevered Ties and Mindwarp (all made with the fake name Henry Dominic) to Femme FataleThe NetThe Game and, well, Catwoman.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was conflicted about doing the movie without Cameron. However, the director told him, “If they can come up with a good script and they pay you a lot of money, don’t think twice.” The script part is questionable, but Arnold made $30 million off this movie.

Nick Stahl replaced Edward Furlong as John Connor, Sarah was now dead and he was constantly on the run from Skynet, which now sent the T-X (Kristanna Loken), its most advanced machine ever, to kill all of Connor’s future soldiers back in the past.

Claire Danes plays Kate Brewster, who is destined to be the wife of John in the future, but now, her military father Lieutenant General Robert Brewster (David Andrews) has acquired all of Cyberdyne Systems’ remaining assets, so the future that was stopped in the last film can still happen, as of course the military boots up SkyNet, which wastes no time at all starting Judgement Day.

If T2 was never made, this movie would be much better considered. It’s up against an absolute classic, so if you can enjoy it on its own merits, then it’s not a bad movie.

Terminator: Salvation (2009): In addition to Terminator 3, producers Andrew G. Vajna and Mario Kassar were already developing Terminator 4, which would finally be about the war between Skynet and humanity. Nick Stahl and Claire Danes were to return as John Connor and Kate Brewster, as director Jonathan Mostow was already on board.

But by 2007, that obviously wasn’t happening. And by this point, Caroloco was falling apart and Vajna and Kassar were no longer speaking. Entertainment Weekly interviewed Vajna, who said “After Rambo, we were trying to become a major studio. I felt that was the wrong direction,” Vajna told Entertainment Weekly. “After Rambo, we were trying to become a major studio. I felt that was the wrong direction. My feelings were very negative and it caused a lot of friction between Mario, myself and Peter Hoffman, who was by then Mario’s right hand. I disagreed with where they wanted to go and Peter played our egos against each other. He wanted to be a partner.” Vajna was paid approximately $100 million for his share in the company and within a few years, Hoffman and Kassar were at odds over how much money Kassar gambled on movies and how much he gave to his actors, like the $17 million dollar jet that was given to Schwarzenegger.

The Halcyon Company bought the intellectual property of Terminator and that’s when more lawsuits happened, as they went nearly bankrupt thanks to funding from the Pacificor hedge fund as well as a lawsuit between MGM and Halcyon subsidiary T Asset, as MGM had an exclusive window of 30 days to negotiate for distribution of the Terminator films and Halcyon turned down their original offer. At the end of the day — in court — Warner Bros. paid $60 million to distribute the movie and Sony threw in over $100 million to acquire the international rights.

There was another lawsuit after the movie played theaters, as producer Moritz Borman — who arranged the rights of Terminator going to Halycon — sued the company for $160 million, claiming that the company’s two managers, Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek, had pushed their way into taking over the production and even worse, wouldn’t pay his $2.5 million share of the production.

The script may have been even messier, as Brancato and Ferris wrote the initial draft, which was rewritten by Paul Haggis, then rewritten again by Shawn Ryan three weeks before filming started. Until a writer’s strike, Jonathan Nolan was doing rewrites on set, as did Anthony E. Zuiker. The script changed so much that Alan Dean Foster rewrote the entire novelization after submitting it to his publisher after he saw the shooting script and realized that there was no way his book would match.

That said, McG was always the director. He went so far as to meet with James Cameron, who didn’t bless or damn the project, but told McG that he was in the same shoes that he had been in once when he made Aliens.

Death row inmate Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) was used by Cyberdyne as part of a trial to create living tissue for their robots, just as Judgement Day begins — moved from August 29, 1997 to July 25, 2003.

15 years later, John Connor (Christian Bale) learns that Skynet is trying to erase Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) before he can go back in time to become his father. He soon meets Marcus, who he believes is a Terminator sent to kill him until Marcus saves his life. Together, they will enter Skynet’s headquarters and rescue the captured Kyle.

Of course, Skynet’s plan was to use Marcus to get John into their base but as we’ve learned by now, fate is up to the individual. This was one of the first movies that were altered when the script leaked online. In that version, John would have been killed and his skin put onto Marcus’ body before he killed the entire cast. Talk about a dark fate, huh?

There’s an R-rated cut of this that is supposedly way better than what was in theaters. I’d love to see it.

Terminator: Savation was also the film where Bale flipped out on director of photography Shane Hurlbut for walking onto the set during a scene. I don’t take that as diva behavior; I love a celebrity meltdown.

Terminator: Genisys (2015): Directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) and written by Kaeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, this film came so much later because The Halcyon Company faced legal issues and filed for bankruptcy, leading to Annapurna Pictures getting the franchise rights. And while they consulted James Cameron, nobody seems happy with this movie.

Amongst all the multiple timelines of the series, a Skynet of one universe that has already been defeated in several timelines gets smart and sends the T-5000 to defeat the humans by taking their best weapon: John Connor.

Now, Emilia Clarke is Sarah Connor, Jai Courtney is the time-displaced Kyle Reese, Arnold is “Pops,” a T-800 and Jason Clarke is John Connor, now a T-3000 after being attacked by the T-5000 as he traveled through time.

As for how Skynet gets launched, it’s through an Apple-like cell phone network known as Genisys. Yes, you thought your phone listening to you and giving you advertising was bad. Just imagine when it wants to kill you.

Set across seven different time periods this movie seems like it wants to confuse its audience, one that may have enjoyed the time travel in the original movie but really just like the simplicty of an unkillable soldier trying to wipe out a future enemy in the past.

Clarke was happy that there were no sequels, saying of the director Alan Taylor, “He was eaten and chewed up on Terminator. He was not the director I remembered. He didn’t have a good time. No one had a good time.” The double pain of doing this and a Thor movie no one liked led to Tayor saying that he “lost the will to make movies and to live as a director.”

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019): James Cameron came back to write the story of this film and produce it, but would anyone care after the numerous stumbles in the story of Terminator?

With a total of five writers — Cameron, Charles Eglee, Josh Friedman, David Goyer, Justin Rhodes — and Tim Miller following up Deadpool, it seemed like a can’t miss movie. So why does hardly anyone discuss it just three years later?

Even though this made $261.1 million at the box office, this movie still lost $122.6 million, making it one of the biggest box-office bombs of all time. Maybe audiences didn’t want to see Terminator 2 invalidated by a film that begins with John Connor being killed by a T-800, not after all we’d loved in that first film.

In the years after John’s death, Sarah (Linda Hamilton, returning to basically be the star of this movie) was given advanced warning of any Terminators as well as how to destroy Skynet, which never went live. Instead, another AI named Legion has come to the same conclusion that Skynet would have. Humans tried to nuke it, but that just ended up creating an unlivable world and now the future has sent a cybernetic soldier named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) to protect another future leader named Dani (Natalia Reyes) from Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna).

The messages that Sarah has been receiving come from Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the T-800 who murdered her son and has spent the time since trying to atone for its sins while starting a human family and a drapery business. Yes, the Terminator puts in blinds and curtains.

Cameron offered tons of suggestions throughout the edit and because of this — and the lack of final edit and control — Miller said he would likely not work with Cameron again. He also said, “Terminator’s an interesting movie to explore, but maybe we’ve explored it enough. I went in with the rock hard nerd belief that if I made a good movie that I wanted to see, it would do well. And I was wrong.” He also said that the goal was to never make a better movie than Terminator 2, but if that’s the goal, why even make the movie?

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Lasting 31 episodes and 2 seasons, this Fox series ignored Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and instead takes place after Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Sarah (Lena Headey), John (Thomas Dekker) and female Terminator Cameron (Summer Glau), spend the series being chased by a T-888 Terminator named Cromartie (Garret Dillahunt) and FBI agent James Ellison (Richard T. Jones) who believes that Sarah is a criminal.

Over the course of the series, they would learn that Skynet had sent numerous Terminators back in time, including a T-1000 who uses the human name Catherine Weaver and is played by Garbage singer Shirley Manson.

Unfortunately, Fox was unhappy with the ratings, despite the show being critically acclaimed and fans writing in to try and save it. Creator Josh Friedman refuses to share what would have happened next.

T2-3D: Battle Across Time (2001): James Cameron made one other sequel to Terminator and it could only be seen at three places: Universal Studios Japan, Hollywood and Orlando. Presented in two parts, it starts as a tour of Cyberdyne Systems before a 3D film allows riders to interact with T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), John Connor (Edward Furlong) and T-1000 (Robert Patrick). There’s even the T-1000000, a giant liquid-metal spider that attacks the heroes.

The project was created by Gary Goddard (Masters of the Universe) and Landmark Entertainment. Universal wanted a stunt show, but Goddard thought that 3D theater show would be even more exciting. After a year-and-a-half of development, James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment was approached for approval and while Cameron was originally against the idea of turning the movie series into a ride, he loved the storyboards and concept. He would come on board to actually direct the battle between the Connors and T-800 against the T-70s, T-1000 and T-1000000.

Lady Terminator (1988): If you’re bored with all these machines and time travel, this Indonesian remix, ripoff and remake presents some of the same scenes from the original James Cameron effort but with a decidedly more occult — and way lower budget — feel. It’s also scummy as it gets, with its female killing machine literally removing men’s members through her murdering lady parts.

Shocking Dark (1989): Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi somehow were able to not only steal from Aliens, but also Terminator to create this movie which was sold as Terminator 2. Robert Patrick does not look pleased.

The Terminators (2009): The Asylum are the masters of “We have Terminator already at home.” I haven’t seen this but now I feel as if I have to.

It’d take a whole other article to get into all of the pop culture that Terminator created, but I just want to tease that by reminding you that at one point, we got a RoboCop vs. Terminator comic book and video game. Come on, Hollywood. Give us the real thing.

Watch the series: Lake Placid

Sometimes, having OCD and ADD and who knows what else leads me down some strange paths. This time, it was to go all-in on Lake Placid. A note: The Lake Placid vs. Anaconda movie and Lake Placid: Legacy will be covered soon enough.

Lake Placid (1999): Not many eco-horror movies have the pedigree of Steve Miner directing and David E. Kelly writing them. Maybe it’s just that I’ve watched so many cable sequels and low budget cash-ins this week, but man — this is an actual movie! This line will make more sense by the time this article is done, as man did these movies take a dive when it comes to quality.

A SCUBA diving death in Aroostook County, Maine leads to an entire team investigating the cause. Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleason), wildlife officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), American Museum of Natural History paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) and mythology professor Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) soon discover that there’s a giant crocodile in the lakes, fed by kindly old Mrs. Delores Bickerman (Betty White).

The Stan Winston-created gator looks great, a moose head is gorily removed from the lake and White’s character is fun. There are also several references to Alligator, which I endorse because it’s the best of all croc or gator on the loose movies.

Lake Placid 2 (2007): Sheriff James Riley is now on the case of the gators and if you know your made for SyFy movies, you know that he has to be played by one-time Duke of Hazzard John Schneider. Instead of Betty White feeding gators, you get her sister Sadie, played by Cloris Leachman (they were both on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, so at least the casting has some meta quality). Instead of Steve Miner and David E. Kelly, we have David Flores directing and Howie Miller and Todd Hurvitz writing.

It is, as they say, a major step backward.

I was going to ask where a cop would get a grenade launcher and then I remembered that in my hometown of 7,436 people the police all have AR15s, ballistic armor and a battle armored SWAT vehicle. So this isn’t all that far-fetched, I guess.

In case you wondered, yes, a small dog is menaced by the gator.

Lake Placid 3 (2010): Sadie Bickerman has died and left her home to her nephew Nathan (Colin Ferguson from Eureka), who plans on fixing it up with his wife Susan (Yancy Butler) and their son Connor, who inherits the Bickerman family trait of feeding gators and making them into human masticating killing machines.

In this movie, an entire family of gators bites down on peeping toms and skinny dippers, keeping the cable movie from showing too much gore or too much skin. It also has a literal home invasion via crocodile years before Crawl.

Director Griff Furst — Stephen’s son — has been in nearly ninety movies and also directed Swamp SharkAlligator Alley and Trailer Park Shark. Writer David Reed is now a writer and a producer of The Boys.

The end of this movie directly ties into the fourth movie.

Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (2010): David E. Kelly, which wrote the original Lake Placid, gave this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars and said, “Is this the last one really? The ending doesn’t make me think so. I am glad to see Robert Englund in this and some of the cast from the previous movie! The effects are still lame as second and third, but the story is good.”

David Reed was back as the writer and sequel king Don Michael Paul (Kindergarten Cop 2, Jarhead 2: Field of FireSniper: LegacyTremors 5: BloodlinesSniper: Ghost ShooterTremors: A Cold Day in HellDeath Race: Beyond AnarchyThe Scorpion King: Book of SoulsJarhead: Law of ReturnBulletproof 2 and Tremors: Shrieker Island) was new to the series, making what was claimed to be the last film in the series. Come on, people.

After the events of Lake Placid 3, Reba (Yancy Butler) is still alive and she starts this off by killing the last remaining crocodile in the supermarket. Now an EPA agent, she returns to Black Lake a year later to work with sheriff Theresa Giove (Elisabeth Röhm). And in every Lake Placid there must be a Bickerman and this time it’s Jimmy, played by Robert Englund.

Butler is pretty great in this, the crocodile is somehow twenty feet long and a whole bus full of kids gets menaced.

There’s an opportunity to make the Lake Placid movies high trash, yet no one ever seems to go for it. You know there will be more, so that’s my challenge to croc creatives: go wild.

WATCH THE SERIES: Death Wish (1974, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1994, 2018)

With The Cannon Canon celebrating Bronson Don’t Like May(onnaise) this month, I decided to watch some Bronson and bring back several of his films. Seeing as how I’ve done an entire Death Wish week before, why not just put them all in one review for easy reading?

Death Wish (1974): New York City in 1974 must have felt like the end of the world. Based on the 1972 novel by Brian Garfield, Death Wish was the answer. In fact, in many theaters, the audience stood up and cheered as Paul Kersey got his bloody revenge for the crims visited upon him and his family.

The film we’re about to discuss went through many twists and turns as it made its way to the screen. Originally, it ended with the vigilante hero confronting the thugs who attacked his family and them killing him, police detective Ochoa discovering his weapon and deciding to follow in his footsteps. And get this — the first choice to play the lead was Jack Lemmon, with Henry Fonda as Ochoa and Sidney Lumet directing.

Finally, United Artists picked the gritty action veteran Michael Winner to direct. Several studios rejected the film due to its subject matter and the difficulty of casting the lead. Winner wanted Bronson, who he’d worked with in the past, but the actor’s agent hated the message of the film and Bronson felt that the book was about a weak man, someone he would not be playing on film.

Death Wish turned Bronson, who was 53 at the time of its release, into a major star known worldwide. It’s a movie made exactly for its time. Despite its lurid subject matter and dangerous acceptance of its hero’s actions, it’s still a great exploitation film that actually explores the why behind its hero’s actions instead of just setting him loose upon people.

Paul Kersey (Bronson) starts the movie in Hawaii with his wife Joanna. When they return home to the squalid streets of New York City, it’s only days before three thugs — including Jeff Goldblum! — invade their apartment, raping their daughter Carol and bearing Joanna so badly that she dies.  Beyond Goldblum in this early role, keep an eye open for Christopher Guest and Olympia Dukakis as cops, as well as Sonia Manzano (Maria from Sesame Street, who was dating director Winner at the time and suggested that Herbie Hancock do the score) and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington from TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter) in supporting roles.

As he recovers from his wife’s death, Paul is mugged. He fights back and chases off his attacker and finds new strength from the battle. An architect by trade, Paul heads to Tucson where he helps Ames Jainchill with his residential development project. After work one night, he goes to a gun club with Ames, where we learn how good of a shot Paul is. Turns out he was a conscientious objector and combat medic who was taught marksmanship by his father, but promised his mother he’d never pick up another gun after his dad was killed in a hunting accident. On the way back home, Paul discovers that Ames has given him a gun as a gift.

Now back home, Paul learns from his son-in-law that his daughter is still catatonic and would be better off in a mental hospital. That night, when walking, Paul is mugged again but he has the gun with him. He fights back and kills the mugger, but even that action causes him to grow physically sick. But soon, he’s prowling the mean streets and looking for a fight.

Before long, NYPD detective Lt. Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) begins investigating the vigilante killings and quickly narrows down his suspect list to Paul. As the manhunt gets closer and closer, Paul finally is caught after passing out from blood loss after a shootout. Instead of arresting him, the NYPD wants the case quietly solved, so they send him off to Chicago. The minute he arrives, he helps a woman who was almost mugged and stares at the criminals with a smile, his fingers in the shape of a gun.

There’s a story which may be apocryphal, but when Michael Winner told Bronson what this film would be about — a man who goes out and shoots muggers — Bronson replied, “I’d like to do that.” Winner said, “The film?” And Bronson replied, “No. Shoot muggers.”

After viewing the film, author Brian Garfield hated how the film advocated vigilantism, so he wrote a sequel called Death Sentence that was made into a movie in 2007 starring Kevin Bacon. No word on whether or not he hated that movie too, as it only keeps a little of the book.

Compared to the heights of mayhem that this series will descend to, this is a retrained meditation of a man facing an increasingly violent world. Stay tuned. Paul Kersey is just getting started.

Death Wish II (1982): Paul Kersey can’t catch a break. Seriously, in this sequel, he goes through the Trials of Job all over again. You think he went through some bad stuff in the first movie? Michael Winner is just getting started putting our vigilante hero through hell on earth.

Paul has taken his daughter Jordan and moved to Los Angeles, where he’s found love again with radio reporter Geri Nichols (Bronson’s wife, Jill Ireland). However, horror and pain is never far from Kersey, so one day at a fair, some punks steal his wallet. He chases one of them down named Jiver down and teaches him a lesson. The gang — Nirvana, Punkcut, Stomper and Cutter (Laurence Fishburne) — find his address in his wallet and pay a visit to his house. They rape his housekeeper Rosario, beat Paul into la la land and steal his daughter (this time played by Robin Sherwood from Tourist Trap). After raping her, she goes even deeper into her depression and jumps out a window, falling to her death and getting impaled like she’s Nikos Karamanlis or Niko Tanopoulos.

Of course, Paul doesn’t need help from the cops. He only needs one thing: to give in to the rage within, to become the vigilante once more. Det. Frank Ochoa is back to chase him one more time, as he’s the only one who can track him.

Soon, Paul is wiping out the gang one by one, his own personal safety and relationship with Geri be damned. This is the first time we discover that Kersey is able to do magical things like make fake IDs with just a Xerox machine and talk his way into anywhere and out of anything. By the end of this film, he’s gone from a man whose life has been destroyed to a walking angel of death willing to do whatever it takes to kill everyone that’s crossed him.

To be as authentic as possible, this movie was shot in the sleaziest parts of Los Angeles, such as the abandoned and crumbling Hollywood Hotel location. Many of the film’s extras were local color who were either hired to play a bit part or just walked over to the set, such as drug addicts, drag queens, Hare Krishnas and bikers. Even crazier, Bronson’s alcoholic brother was a frequent set visitor, constantly asking for money. Bronson wanted to be careful not to give him too much cash so that he wouldn’t be mugged, but that brother was soon found dead, stabbed in the ass.

My favorite part of this was the score, composed by Jimmy Page in his first post-Led Zeppelin musical appearance here by creating the film’s soundtrack. It’s almost surreal to hear his signature guitar tone over Bronson killing rapists.

You can get this on UHD from Vinegar Syndrome.

Death Wish 3 (1985): Paul Kersey is back in New York City, despite being kicked out at the end of the first Death Wish. His Korean War buddy Charley has invited him to ask for help as his East New York apartment building has been under attack by a gang. Paul gets there just in time for his friend to die in his arms and the police arrest him for the murder. Inspector Richard Shriker recognizes him as the vigilante from back in the first movie, so he throws him into a holding cell with the leader of the gang, Manny Fraker (Gavan O’Herlihy, son of Halloween 3: Season of the Witch bad guy par excellence Dan O’Herlihy). After a fistfight ensues, the villain gets released before Paul. If you think that’s the end of all of this, you haven’t been reading our website this week.

Shriker offers our hero a deal: kill all the punks you want, but inform him of any activity so that he can get a big bust and make the news. With that, we’re off and to the races in what is not only the craziest of the Death Wish movies, but perhaps the most bonkers movie you’ll ever see.

Paul moves into his dead friend’s apartment and into a warzone. He makes friends with the other tenants, including World War II vet Bennett Cross (Martin Balsam from Psycho), a kindly old Jewish couple named Mr. and Mrs. Kaprov, a young Hispanic couple named Rodriguez and Maria (a pre-Star Trek: The Next Generation Marina Sirtis who in real life is a Greek girl born in London). There’s even a young kid who continually walks into the path of gunfire. Obviously, this is a neighborhood made for Paul Kersey. It is, as my wife pointed out, Sesame Street where people die horribly.

Paul uses a car as bait for the gang, killing two who break into it. And he saves Maria twice, but the third time, the gang takes her and she soon dies in the hospital, not knowing the most important rule of Death Wish: if you are a woman, stay away from Paul Kersey.

That’s when Paul orders a .475 caliber Wildey Magnum, a gun that has the same muzzle velocity as a .44 Magnum at 1000 yards. This big bore handgun, as Danny Vermin once said, “shoots through schools.” He traps The Giggler by putting his new camera where he knows the criminal can steal it, then he blows him into another dimension with his gigantic handcannon. “I can’t believe they got The Giggler, man,” laments the punk rock gang.

Why this gun?  Well, it was Bronson’s personal handgun in real life. According to the gun’s inventor and the film’s technical consultant, Wildey Moore, sales for the Wildey Magnum increase whenever this film airs on TV.

You know who else didn’t get that memo about dating Paul? Public defender Kathryn Davis (Deborah Raffin, The Sentinel), who dates our hero long enough for him to joke that he likes opera and for mohawked punk gang leader Manny to shove the car she is waiting for Paul in toward oncoming traffic, where it explodes in a giant fireball.

Shriker decides that enough is enough and he puts Paul into protective custody. But after the gang blows up Bennett’s taxi garage, the old man tries to use the ancient Browning .30 machine gun that Charley brought back from the war. Sadly, the ancient detective from Psycho is no Roadblock from G.I. Joe and he’s quickly beaten into near death by the gang. Paul is allowed to visit him at the hospital and quickly makes a break to defend his new friends once and for all.

There’s another big machine gun, so Paul and Rodriguez use it to kill every single gangbanger they can before they run out of ammo, just as their neighbors finally come to arms to help them. What follows is what can only be described as sheer orgasmic violence, as hundreds of stunts all happen at the same time. Grenades are thrown from motorcycles. Handgun blasts send people flying through glass windows. Fire is everywhere. And there’s Paul Kersey, walking cooly and doing what he does best: killing punk rock criminals of all colors, races and creeds, including a very young Alex Winter.

Finally, Manny almost kills Paul, but he’s saved by Shriker, who is wounded by the punker but succeeds in shooting him. Kersey calls for an ambulance just as Manny rises, showing his bulletproof vest. In a moment that will live in my mind forever, Paul shoots him dead in the chest with an M72 LAW rocket and sends him flying through the side of the building as his girlfriend (Barbie Wilde, the female Cenobite from Hellraiser) screams in pain, their psychic link obviously broken like Cyclops and Jean Grey on the dark side of the moon. The gang realizes they’re beaten as the cops show up in force, with Kersey simply walking away.

Death Wish 3 is many things, but none of them are subtle. It’s a sledgehammer blow to your sensibilities, a veritable tour of depravity and sadism. It’s also entertaining as hell. Bronson hated  Don Jakoby’s (Invaders from MarsLifeforce and a frequent collaborator of Dan O’Bannon, with whom he wrote an unproduced script called Pinocchio the Robot that would have featured Lee Marvin as Geppetto!) script and the fact that they turned Paul Kersey into Rambo, but he got $1.5 million for starring in this movie. Frequent rewrites led to Jakoby taking his name off the film and he’s listed as Michael Edmonds.

All told, 74 people die in Death Wish 3, as detailed in this completely amazing article. They are stabbed, shot, run over, set on fire and more. They fall from tall buildings. They are thrown from tall buildings. And there’s a gang that combines all races and creeds — except old people — including white supremacists, punk rockers and lovers of reggae. It is the rainbow coalition of death. There was also a video game that lives up to the violence on screen.

The film also includes a rape scene with the victim played by Sandy Grizzle, who was the girlfriend of director Michael Winner. After they broke up, she reported to London tabloids that this was part of him treating her as a sex slave. Winner sued the News of the World tabloid and won.

Before you scoff at this notion, keep in mind that Winner spent six days filming the rape scene in Death Wish 2, a movie that took from May to July of 1981 to shoot. Also, following the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein in 2017, Winner was accused by three women of demanding they expose their breasts to him. Seeing as how he’s not around to refute the charges, let’s just move on.

Beyond these rumors, Winner was the kind of special individual that almost died from eating dinner — twice. He got the bacterial infection vibrio vulnificus from eating an oyster in Barbados, nearly losing his leg and his life. Then, years later, he’d almost die from food poisoning after eating steak tartare four days in a row. He died in 2013 at the age of 77.

Let’s ignore the gossip on Michael Winner and concentrate on how awesome Death Wish 3 is. Because wow, they literally can’t, don’t — and some folks would say probably shouldn’t — make them like this anymore.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987): Where do you go after the utter lunacy that is Death Wish 3? Well, you replace Michael Winner with J. Lee Thompson, who was the director for The Guns of Navarone, the original Cape Fear, the slashtastic Happy Birthday to Me and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud amongst many other films. He’d already worked with Bronson on 10 to MidnightMurphy’s Law and The Evil That Men Do and would also direct Bronson in Messenger of Death and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects after this movie wrapped. In fact, counting St. Ives, The White Buffalo and Caboblanco, they’d work on seven movies together.

Paul Kersey hasn’t learned anything from the last three movies. He has a new girlfriend, Karen Sheldon (Kay Lenz, The Initiation of SarahHouse) with a teenage daughter named Erica (Dana Barron, the original Audrey from National Lampoon’s Vacation) that you shouldn’t get to know all that well. That’s because — surprise! — she overdoses thanks to her boyfriend and her getting into crack cocaine and doing it an arcade. If you’re shocked that a Death Wish movie would prey upon the worst fears of America’s middle class, then you may have watched the last three films too.

Paul loved that girl like his own daughter, probably because she wanted to be an architect like him and also possibly because he hasn’t yet learned that the moment that he says something like that, tragedy is right around the corner. Honestly, the main message of the Death Wish films is that God hates Paul Kersey, will not allow him to die and will wait until he finds happiness again before visiting upon him great suffering, only for the cycle to repeat.

The night she died, Paul saw Erica smoke a joint with her boyfriend and was already suspecting the young dude, so he follows him back to the arcade the next night. That boyfriend confronts Jojo and Jesse (Tim Russ, Commander Tuvok himself!), two of the dealers who sold them the crack cocaine, and threatens to go to the police. This being a Death Wish film, they kill him pretty much in public. That murder unlocks the ability for Paul to start killing again, so he shoots Jojo and launches his body on to the top of bumper cars, where he’s electrocuted. No one dies in a Death Wish movie without a flourish.

Meanwhile, Paul gets a call from tabloid publisher Nathan White (John P. Ryan from It’s Alive), who knows that he’s the vigilante. His daughter had also become addicted to drugs and died, so he knows what Paul is going through. The storyline becomes pretty much like The Punisher’s first mini-series where The Trust paid for him to wipe out crime, as White funds Paul’s one man war against drugs while his girlfriend starts writing an expose on the two rival gangs in town.

To cut down the budget in this movie, when Paul and Nathan meet in the movie theater, that’s Cannon’s screening room.

One of those gangs is led by Ed Zacharias (Perry Lopez, Creature from the Black Lagoon) and the other is commanded by Jack and Tony Romero. Two LAPD officers, Sid Reiner and Phil Nozaki are also on the case, trying to figure out who killed the drug dealers at the arcade.

This is the first Death Wish film where Paul feels more like an urban James Bond than a fed up war vet. Trust me, he gets even more gadgets in the next one. Here, he uses his skills as a master of disguise — he has none — to dress as a waiter and serve a party at Zacharias’ house. The birthday cake is…man, let me just show you the birthday cake.

After witnessing the drug lord kill one of his guys who stole some cocaine, he’s ordered to help carry out the body. Soon, he’s killing all of that drug dealer’s men, including three guys in an Italian restaurant with a bomb shaped like a wine bottle. Look for a really young Danny Trejo in this scene!

After all that mayhem, Paul also starts wiping out the Romero gang one by one, including breaking onto a drug front and blowing it up with a bomb. Yet Nozaki ends up being on the take for Zacharias and tries to kill our hero and you know how well that works out. Now Paul looks like a cop killer, too.

In the stuntman piece de resistance of this one, the two drug lords are lured into an oil field shootout where Paul kills Zacharius with a high-powered rifle, instigating the fireworks. Nathan comes out to congratulate Paul, but sets him up with a car bomb. It turns out that the Nathan that Paul has met is a third drug lord (!) who set him up to take out all the competition. Then, two fake cops arrest Paul and take him downtown, but they’re really just trying to kill our hero. Again, you know how well that works.

The film ends with Detective Reiner searching for Paul out of revenge for his partner’s murder, the third drug lord kidnapping Paul’s woman and everything coming together in a parking lot and a roller rink where Paul uses an M16 with an equipped M203 grenade launcher to unleash holy hell.

Only the drug lord survives, holding Karen. She tried to escape and gets shot numerous times with a MAC 10 submachine gun. He tries to kill Paul but he’s out of bullets. Paul may be, but he still has a grenade, which he uses to blow the villain up real good.

The film closes with Reiner coming and ordering Paul to surrender and threatening to kill him if he walks away. “Do whatever you have to,” says the old gunfighter as he walks into the sunset.

For all the mayhem and madness throughout this film — keep in mind our hero just used an explosive device to decimate another bad guy just seconds before — this is a poignant ending. But of course, Paul — whether he wanted to use the new last name Kimble he came up with in this film or Kersey — would be back one more time.

Bronson made $4 million for this movie and in my opinion, he should have asked for more.

Death Wish 5: The Face of Death (1994): You think Paul Kersey has learned his lesson about love and loss? No way, pal. Now back in New York City in the witness protection program and going by Paul Stewart, he’s keeping a low profile by going to fashion shows with his super hot girlfriend (Lesley-Anne Down) who also has a young daughter named Chelsea who is surely doomed. Come on, everyone. We’ve made it this far. We may as well watch Death Wish 5: The Face of Death.

It turns out that Olivia has been paying protection money to her evil mobster ex-husband Tommy O’Shea, who is Michael Parks! Paul confronts the guy at the fashion show, but one of the villain’s goons shows him his revolver. He tries to do the right thing and brings in a District Attorney.

Paul again proves he has no short or long-term memory by proposing to Olivia, who doesn’t understand what we all have accepted: God hates Paul Kersey like He has never hated another of His creations. Excusing herself to the powder room to piddle in absolute joy after being asked to be the life partner of a man who has personally murdered thousands of scumwads, one of Tommy’s men named Flakes (Robert Joy, Lizard from The Hills Have Eyes and, as my wife would exclaim loudly, Jim from Desperately Seeking Susan) shoves her face so hard into a mirror that she’s disfigured for life. Even surgery won’t fix her face. Such is the life of a woman who gets involved with Paul Kersey.

After meeting two cops, Mickey King (Windom Earle from Twin Peaks!) and Janice Omori, the female cop dies in the very next scene. She must have gotten a little too close to Paul. In the hospital, King tells Kersey not to go back to his old ways. King tells him that he’s been on this case for 16 years. “16 years? That’s a long time to be failing,” replies Kersey.

Even after getting out of the hospital, Olivia still has to deal with the life she’s chosen as more henchmen come after Paul, shooting her in the back and finally ending her suffering. Well, it turns out that Tommy runs all of the police and has taken his daughter back, so Paul goes full on 007 by killing one goon with poisoned canoli and another with a remote-controlled soccer ball! At this point, this film has gone from boring to right where I want it to be.

What follows is exactly what we want to see: a slasher movie with the righteous Paul going old man nutzoid on every crook there is left, shooting them into sewing machines, slashing their faces with broken bottles and shotgun blasting them into acid baths. At the end, he walks away with his dead fiancee’s daughter, yelling to the cop who couldn’t keep up, “Hey Lieutenant, if you need any help, give me a call.”

After the last three movies coming from Cannon Films, which was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, this one comes from Menahem Golan’s new 21st Century Film Corporation. They were having trouble making money and figured that a new Death Wish was going to be a sure-fire hit. Incredibly, for reasons no one is sure about, Bronson and Golan weren’t speaking during the filming, so they’d only communicate through Allan A. Goldstein.

Sadly, the film failed at the box office (but it did fine on home video). Golan planned to continue the film series without Bronson (!) and was planing Death Wish 6: The New Vigilante before 21st Century Film Corporation went bankrupt. This would be Bronson’s last theatrical film, as he was 71 years old as this was being filmed.

Death Wish (2018): Written by Joe Carnahan (writer and director of Smokin’ Aces and the movie version of The A-Team, as well as a member of the Creative Council of Represent.Us, a nonpartisan anti-corruption organization) and directed by Eli Roth (Cabin FeverThe Green Inferno), Death Wish was a movie delayed several times by the rampant mass shootings in our country. It arrives at a time when the debate over guns has reached a fever pitch. That said, one viewing of The Killing of America, made way back in 1982, shows that that argument has been going on almost the entire way back to the original Death Wish series.

Do we need another Death Wish? After all, there were five different movies already. Is there something new that the film can speak to? This one attempts to, with numerous blips of info from various media sources as diverse as Chicago DJ Mancow, memes and the site mediatakeout to hip hop’s Sway in the Morning.

Paul Kersey (Willis) and his wife (Elisabeth Shue) are getting ready to say goodbye to their daughter Jordan before she goes to college. After lunch at a restaurant, a valet looks up their home address on their car after hearing they’ll all be out that night. However, Paul gets called into his job as a trauma surgeon — instead of an architect — leaving his family alone at home. This being Death Wish, I’m certain we can all guess what happens next.

Police Detective Kevin Raines (Dean Norris, Starship Troopers) and Detective Leonore Jackson are the cops in charge of the case, but they aren’t getting anywhere. Jordan remains in a coma while Paul grieves for his dead wife, including trying to stop a mugging which ends up with him being beaten. He debates buying a gun but realizes he’ll have to register it and be videotaped (the film wavers here between gun ownership being too easy and providing the right info).

A patient drops a Glock 17 while Paul tries to save his life and thanks to online videos, Paul learns how to use it. Soon, he’s stopping carjackings and killing drug dealers and has been dubbed the Grim Reaper by the media.

When Paul recognizes his stolen watch on a man’s wrist, he uses that man’s phone to get closer to the men who destroyed his family. One by one, he eliminates them before realizing that his actions have brought his family — daughter Jordan, who has emerged from her coma, and brother Frank (Vincent D’Onofrio) — into the killer’s sights.

Paul then uses his legally purchased weapons to defend his home, the police come after its all over and our hero easily explains that he’s not the Grim Reaper. Free of consequence, he’s able to take his daughter to college in New York City. There, he sees a mugging and stares right at the criminals, making the same finger pistol mannerism that Bronson used at the end of the first Death Wish. Interestingly enough, this is an inversion of the original film’s ending, where Kersey moves from New York City to Chicago.

Seeing as how director Eli Roth loves exploitation films, there are plenty of references, such as Paul telling a criminal that he’s torturing that he’s about. to put them into “the most pain a human can endure before going into cardiac arrest,” a fact discovered by scientists of Unit 731 and chronicled by the movie Men Behind the Sun. That scene also uses the Sorcery song “Sacrifice,” which comes from the film Stunt Rock (Sorcery also played the band Headmistress in Rocktober Blood). And a trivia note just for my wife: the last movie that Elisabeth Shue and Vincent D’Onofrio appeared in together was Adventures in Babysitting, which also takes place in Chicago.

This isn’t a bad film. But there’s no real reason for it to exist as it says nothing new other than being a serviceable action film. It’s been criticized as alt right and racist, but I think any Death Wish film is going to be branded the same way. I thought it was pretty even in its depiction and had plenty of different voices throughout.

Want to know more about Death Wish?

Death Kiss: This 2018 film features Bronson clone Robert Bronzi.

A breakdown of cover versions of Death Wish: From two Turkish remakes to an adult version, there have been plenty of Death Wish ripoffs.

Cellat: The Turkish Death Wish somehow gets parts of the second movie into their story years before it was filmed.

I recommend both books by Paul Talbot, Bronson’s Loose: The Making of the Death Wish Films and Bronson’s Loose Again: On the Set with Charles Bronson. You can also read our interview with him.

For more info on all things Cannon, get Austin Trunick’s The Cannon Film Guide Volume 1: 1980-1984.

You can also check out these episodes of The Cannon Canon:

Watch the series: Wild Things (2004, 2005, 2010)

Editor’s note: To check out Wild Things, click here.

Wild Things 2 (2004): Directed by Jack Perez (Unauthorized: The Mary Kay Letourneau StoryUnauthorized: Brady Bunch – The Final Days) and written by Ross Helford (who also wrote the Sniper sequels) and Andy Hurst (who wrote the sequel to Single White Female), this movie does credit Stephen Peters for characters, but there’s not a single continuing character. In fact, it’s pretty much the same story and a very similar threesome scene, which you’ll soon discover just might be the defining moment of any movie called Wild Things.

Brittney Havers (Susan Ward) is a wealthy Florida high school senior who has list her mother to a car crash on Gator Alley — where she was presumably devoured by alligators — and her stepfather Niles Dunlap (Anthony Denison, who was Joey Buttafucco in The Amy Fisher Story, the Drew Barrymore one) has just died when his private plane went down. She’s about to earn a small amount of money each year until she’s done with college and then $25,000 a year, with the rest of the will — $70 million dollars worth — going to an heir if they can be found. That heir ends up being one of her classmates, Maya King (Leila Arcieri).

We soon see Brittney, Maya and the DNA test doctor all having some MFF action, which clues us in that this is all a ruse. Insurance investigator Terence Bridge (Isaiah Washington) thinks that it’s a scam too, as Dunlap once had scarlet fever and was possibly sterile. That means the DNA doctor is a crocodile meal and then, well, the twists and turns start to add up. Dead people are alive, partners get double-crossed, people on the side of the law aren’t and there’s even an open ending that makes you think that the backstabbing hasn’t stopped.

Imagine if they just redid the first one, had no major stars, still had the threesome scene and shot it like a prime time soap opera. That’s kind of a success in my book.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough (2005): I love when a movie can be sold just on the title and doesn’t need to be tied into anything in any of the other movies in the series. So here we go. Another Wild Things, this one directed by Jay Lowi (Tangled) from a script by Andy Hurst and Ross Helfer, the same guys who wrote the last one.

Marie Clifton was given two diamonds — the “mother and daughter” — in her mother’s will, but her step-father Jay Clifton (Brad Johnson, who was in Nam Angels and was also a former Marlboro Man) has changed the will because he wants them for himself.

Meanwhile, there’s a sex ed seminar at school with Dr. Chad Johnson and probation officer Kristen Richards (Dina Meyer, once Batgirl on Birds of Prey as well as roles in D-ToxStarship Troopers and Saw), who reveals that she was the victim of a sex crime when she was in high school, which totally shuts down the raucous senior audience.

Now here’s where the Wild Things drama comes in: Marie has a swim meet and her stepfather meets towel girl Elena Sandoval (Sanda McCoy, who was in the secret Porky’s movie Porky’s: Pimpin’ Pee Wee), who he invites to Marie’s eighteenth birthday party. The girls do not get along — that’s putting it mildly — so Jay takes her to one of his construction sites and you know what happens next allegedly. Now, Detective Michael Morrison (Linden Ashby) and Richards are on the case, along with Dr. Johnson, who is to examine Elena.

If you’re wondering how long it takes until Marie, Elena and the doctor are all reenacting scenes from You, Me and Dupree, it’s about as long as it takes to read this sentence.

But man, the twists and turns of this one are so plentiful that they take one of the things that worked so well in the original movie and show how it all came together over the credits. And for some reason, the good guys actually come out on top in this one.

How much sex, illegitimate children, gator eating and swamp chases can one small Florida town have? Well, they made four movies out of this. There’s your answer. This one has the sense to just go wild — no pun intended.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Wild Things: Foursome (2010): Each Wild Things movie seems like a remake of sorts. This installment has Andy Hurst, who wrote the second and third, directing and a script by Howard Zemski and Monty Featherstone, the team who wrote Sharkman.

The major difference is that this time, we’re talking about twenty-year-olds and not high schoolers. Carson Wheetly (Ashley Parker Angel, who was in O-Town) is the rich and spoiled son of NASCAR car racer Ted Wheetly (Cameron Daddo). He thinks his dad may have killed his mother, but first, let’s get to this movie’s other main difference.

Whereas every Wild Things is built around a threesome, this one goes one better and has, as the title spoils for you, a foursome between Carson, his girlfriend Rachel Thomas (Marnette Patterson), Brandi Cox (Jillian Murray, Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero) and Linda Dobson (Jessie Nickson).

Within a few days of that MFFF miracle — surely Carson is some level of science fiction character or at least a former boy band member — his father dies in a car crash that Bruno Mattei’s some Days of Thunder footage. That death is suspicious, so Detective Frank Walker (John Schneider, who may know a thing or two about car crashes) starts to investigate just as the will is announced, which states that Carson cannot inherit his father’s money and estate until he turns thirty or marries.

That means a quick marriage to Rachel, but they had a deal with everyone in the foursome, so Brandi and Linda seem to be dead meat, except that Rachel and Brandi are also working together to kill Carson. Once the girls end up — spoiler warning — using sex to kill Carson, they start conspiring to keep making love and attempting to murder one another.

This is the sort of movie that keeps the twists coming after the credits roll. All I have to say is keep your eye on lawyer George Stuben (Ethan Smith).

I miss the swamps of the other movies, but appreciate that this one is all about death and sex, which let’s face it, all giallo should be. It doesn’t get to that level, as it needs more fashion and better music, but it certainly has the sleaze — well, homogenized 2000s sleaze — going for it.

I kind of wish there was a fifth movie just to see if they’d get a fiveway into it.

Consider Tubi the Wild Things network, because they have every one of these movies.

 

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 29: Watch the series: Freaky Friday (1975, 1996, 2003, 2018, 2020)

Freaky Friday started as a novel written by Mary Rodgers, based on Vice Versa: A Lesson to Fathers by F. Anstey, a story in which the protagonists are father and son. In Rodgers’ book, 13-year-old Annabel Andrews and her mother spend time in each other’s bodies. The novel was so popular that Disney as made it four times an Rodgers also mae several sequels herself, such as A Billion for Boris/ESPTV and Summer Switch (which ABC made into TV movies). The major difference between the novel and the films is that an outside influence switches the mother and daughter against their wills.

Freaky Friday (1976): “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day.” That’s all it takes to start off this crazy adventure for Ellen Harris (Barbara Harris) and her daughter Annabel (Jodie Foster).

Based on the 1972 novel by Mary Rodgers — who also wrote the screenplay — the magic that switches the mother and daughter in this movie is quite simple. In Friday the 13th, all you have to do is say, “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day” and it happens.

Actually, this whole thing reminds me of Goofy Minds the House, a 1977 Disney Wonderful World of Reading storybook that features the character Goofy and his wife switching jobs for one day and learning that they both have rough lives. That story was based on a Norwegian folktale and taught me that women were much stronger than men. Also — Goofy once had a wife named Mrs. Geef and Mrs. Goof, but now he’s thought to be dating Clarabelle the Cow, so something happened at some point. Perhaps even odder, Goofy was once called Dippy Dawg.

But I digress.

Just as much as that story is part of my childhood, so is Freaky Friday, a movie that I know for a fact that I saw at the Spotlite 88 Drive-In in Beaver Falls, PA.

Ellen Andrews and her daughter Annabel are constantly battling with one another until they switch places, which enables each of them to see life from the other side, connect better with other people and, of course, water ski.

The cast of this movie is made up of people that a five year old me would see as big stars, like John Astin, Dick Can Patten, Charlene Tilton, Marc McClure and, of course, Boss Hogg. Strangely enough, George Lucas wanted Foster for the role of Princess Leia, but her mother wanted her to complete her contract to Disney.

Disney can’t seem to stop remaking this movie. And really, no one else can either, because it’s the mother of body switch comedies, including 18 Again!All of Me, Dream a Little DreamVice Versa and Freaky, a film which combines the Friday the 13th of this story with the slasher side of the holiday.

Freaky Friday (1995): This made-for-TV movie has Shelly Long as Ellen and Gaby Hoffman (the daughter of Warhol superstar Viva) as Annabelle. A pair of magical amulets causes the two of them to switch bodies in this version and waterskiing has been replaced with diving.

Ellen is also a single mother dating Bill (Alan Rosenberg) and designing clothing, which is the 90s version of being a housewife. What livens this up is a great cast with Drew Carey, Sandra Bernhard, Carol Kane and the much-missed Taylor Negron.

Writer Stu Krieger wrote The Parent Trap IIA Troll in Central ParkZenon: Girlof the 21st Century and Phantom of the Megaplex while director Melanie Mayron is probably best known for playing Melissa Steadman on Thirtysomething even though she has more than sixty directing credits on her resume.

The other big change is that when Annabelle is in Ellen’s body, she tells Bill exactly how much she dislikes him, thinking it will push him away. Instead, he proposes.

Forgive me for being weird, but…do these characters ever have to make love in these bodies? Because, well, that could be awkward.

Freaky Friday (2003): I spoke too soon about the sexual side of Freaky Friday, as this movie, while chaste, does not shy away from the fact that Jake (Chad Michael Murray) has feelings for Anna (Lindsay Lohan) no matter if she’s in her body or the body of her mother, Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis). The attraction that Jake feels, while mental, is way hotter than the way Marc McClure reacted to Barbara Harris.

Written by Heather Hach (Legally Blonde: The MusicalWhat To Expect When You’re Expecting and a gym teacher in this movie) and Leslie Dixon (OverboardLoverboy, the 2007 Hairspray) and directed by Mark Walters (who worked with Dixon again on Just Like Heaven; he also directed Mean GirlsGhosts of Girlfriends Past, the gender-swapped He’s All That and Mr. Popper’s Penguins), this take on the story retains the single mother idea from the 1995 TV movie and has Mark Harmon play Ryan, the potential new father in Anna’s life.

Lohan’s character was originally written as a goth girl and she didn’t think anyone would relate to that, so she showed up dressed like a preppie. Somehow, she was convinced to play a grunge girl instead. I mean, she has a band called Pink Slip and plays guitar instead of water skiing or driving.

The McGuffin that drives this film is a pair of fortune cookies mixed with an earthquake switches bodies for Anna and Tess, which leads to Anna lecturing teachers and Tess being more loud and wild.

As for the casting, it really works. The original idea was for Jodie Foster to play Tess, but she didn’t like the stunt casting. Then, Annette Bening and Kelly Osbourne were going to be the leads — with Tom Selleck as Ryan — but Bening dropped out and Osbourne’s mother got cancer.

Probably the only downside is that this movie falls back on that Hollywood cliche of Asian people being able to magically change lives.

Is it weird that I know that the band Orgy taught Jamie Lee how to play guitar? Why do I have these facts inside my head? And how weird is it to hear “Flight Test” by the Flaming Lips in a Disney movie? Or Joey Ramone covering “What A Wonderful World?”

Freaky Friday (2018): It’s wild that Steve Carr made Next Friday and a Freaky Friday sequel. And this time, I had no idea I was getting into a musical. Cozi Zuehlsdorff from the Dolphin Tale movies is Ellie Blake and her mother Katherine is played by Heidi Blickenstaff, who played the role on stage. Seriously, this is a full-blown bing singing musical and also a version of the story that leans in on Ellie being a total slob with a filthy room, a girl who always wears the same clothes every day and who would totally be the kind of arty disaffected young girl who I’d be too shy to talk to and leave mixtapes in her locker. Or maybe text her Spotify links now, I guess, right?

A magical hourglass — given to Ellie by her late father, a Freaky Friday story beat retained from the last few versions — is the storytelling device that switches the daughter and mother. There’s also a scavenger hunt that an entire school is absolutely obsessed by, making this also an updating of Midnight Madness.

This was the first Disney movie made from one of their stage plays and it didn’t get great ratings. It’s fine — obviously there are a ton of different versions of Freaky Friday for you to watch. I’d place it slightly ahead of the Shelley Long version, but way behind everything else.

Freaky (2020): By all rights, I should hate this movie, a semi-remake of Freaky Friday that instead subverts the source material by turning it into a slasher. But you know, it ended up hitting me the right way and I was behind it pretty much all the way.

Directed by Christopher Beau Landon — yes, the son of Michael — who wrote Disturbia — that’s not even a word — and several of the Paranormal Activitymovies before directing the Happy Death Day films. If you liked those, well, this will definitely give you more of what those movies offered, this is set in the same universe — Landon said that, “They definitely share the same DNA and there’s a good chance Millie and Tree will bump into each other someday” — and was originally titled Freaky Friday the 13th.

Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton, Big Little Lies) is a teenager who has been tormented by bullies, both of the teenager and teacher* varieties. Meanwhile, the urban legend of the Blissfield Butcher continues, as he keeps killing her classmates. Now that he possesses a McGuffin called La Dola — an ancient Mayan sacrificial dagger — he looks to gain even more power. But when he runs into our heroine — her mother (Katie Finneran, who is great in this) has left her behind at a football game where all she gets to do is wear a beaver mascot costume — she battles the Butcher and when he stabs her, they end up switching bodies.

So yeah — this turns into a body swap comedy and you’d think, after the gory as hell open, this is where they lose you. But no — if anything, this gets way more fun.

Millie’s friends make for some of the best scenes in the film. Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) have been with her through the worst parts of high school, so having their best friend in the body of a killing machine is just another trial to be endured.

Speaking of that killer, Vince Vaughn shines in this. There’s plenty of silly physical comedy, but also some really nice scenes like when he admits to the love interest that she left the note he treasures (body swap pronouns are a little hard) or when he has a moment with her mother while hiding in a changing room.

Landon — who wrote the movie along with Michael Kennedy — said that the film was influenced by the Scream series, along with Cherry FallsFright NightJennifer’s BodyThe Blob and Urban Legend. There’s also a fair bit of Halloween in here, particularly the opening series of murders, and references to Heathers, Child’s Play, Creepshow, Galaxy Quest, Carrie, The Faculty, The Craft and Supernatural. There’s also a bottle down the throat kill that came directly from the 2009 slasher remake Sorority Row.

I had fun with this. Here’s hoping you do the same.

*The funny thing is that the teacher that is the worst to her is Alan Ruck, who knows a thing about bring bullied, what with playing Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 29: Watch the series: Friday (1995, 2000, 2002)

Ice Cube and DJ Pooh felt that movies only showed the dark side of the urban experience. Cube had the vision of making a “hood classic” that would be rewatched over and over again and based much of the script — only the third he had written — on his life. They got New Line interested in the film — the studio had made House Party — and Cube hired video direct F. Gary Grey.

His only worry? Doing comedy when up until then, he was considered a dangerous thug.

Grey said, “Ice Cube was the toughest man in America, and when you take someone (who) delivers hard-hitting social issues in hardcore gangsta rap, and who has a hardcore view on politics, you would never think comedy.”

Friday (1995): Craig Jones (Ice Cube) just got fired on his day off (this actually happened to one of Cube’s cousins), giving him the entire Friday to spend with his best friend, Smokey (Chris Tucker, a comedian whose first audition didn’t go well but who trained, came back and won the part). They smoke Smokey’s stash — $200 worth of weed — and if they can’t pay Big Worm (Faizon Love) by 10 p.m., they’re dead.

The episodic movie finds Craig and Smokey trying to get that money, whether through borrowing, begging or stealing. They also run into Deebo (Tiny Lister Jr.), a gigantic maniac who forces Smokey to break into a house, after which he steals the money that Smokey has ripped off.

Friday seems like a modern day take on Cheech and Chong in the best of ways, while keeping more focus. It also has time for plenty of great cameos, like the sadly long gone Bernie Mac as a preacher, John Witherspoon as Craig’s father, Regina King as his sister and DJ Pooh as Red.

Shot in Grey’s actual home block in the homes of his friends, you can even see some members of the neighborhood show up that refused to move from the spot they were in. Grey just filmed around them as well as he could. Additionally, the cast and crew not to wear anything red during filming, as 126th Street between Halldale and Normandie was Crips territory.

Friday made more than eight times what it cost to make. Ice Cube and DJ Pooh had the right idea.

Next Friday (2000): Written by Ice Cube and directed by Steve Carr, who also worked with Cube on Are We There Yet?Next Friday made $60 million off an $11 million budget, defying critics who hated the films — again, much lilke Cheech and Chong.

When Deebo escapes from prison to get revenge on Craig, Craig’s father Willie moves him to Rancho Cucamonga to live with his uncle Elroy (Don D.C. Curry), who has just won the lottery, and cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps). Day-Day makes a decent replacement for Smoky, as Chris Tucker didn’t come back for the second movie as he became a born again Christian.

Beyond dealing with the threat of an escaped Deebo, now Craig and Day-Day must avoid baby mamas, a gang called the Jokers and try to keep Day-Day’s record store job. While the move to the suburbs offers some fun joke, Tucker’s prescence is definitely missed. Then again, I find myself loving that Ice Cube is so loveable in these films, particularly after albums like “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” in which he unleashed venomous hatred on nearly every ethnicity and human being within the reach of his booming voice.

Friday After Next (2002): Written by Ice Cube and directed by Marcus Raboy, the third Friday movie again was rejected by critics and embraced by the audience that it was made for. It starts on Christmas Eve as a thief breaks into the home of Craig (Cube) and Day-Day (Mike Epps), stealing everything they’ve bought for their family and friends. Also — the rent is due and if they don’t get it soon, their landlady is going to unleash her just released from jail son Damon (Terry Crews) on them and in a violently loving fashion, if you get what I’m saying.

The setting in this sequel moves from the suburbs to a strip mall, a place where their fathers — Willie (John Witherspoon) and Elroy (Don D.C. Curry) — have started a BBQ place so good you’ll slap your mother. It’s also where Money Mike (Katt Williams) and his main girl Donna (K.D. Aubert) have started the store Pimps and Hoes.

Obviously, by the third movie you’re just hoping for more hangout time with the leads and less expecting a groundbreaking effort. That said, this is a goofball bit of harmless fun, a good holiday movie to throw on if you’re sick of the same films every December and makes me hope that we get one more of these movies.

Somehow, I never saw a single one of these movies before, but I must confess, they made a nice break this week, a breezy bit of fun and light laughs in the midst of dark times.

WATCH THE SERIES: Watchers

Dean Koontz — whose own website proclaims him as the “International Bestselling Master of Suspense” — has sold over 450 million copies of his books, but it always seems like he’s a little behind Stephen King. I mean, that’s not a bad thing, as King was just a monolith when it came to selling books. But Koontz was successful as well. as in the VHS rental wild late 80s and 90s, so many of his books became movies. Watchers, which is very, very loosely based on one of his books, has three sequels alone.

Other Koontz film adaptions include Demon SeedThe Passengers (based on his noel Shattered), WhispersServants of TwilightHideawayIntensityMr. MurderPhantomsSole SurvivorFrankensteinOdd Thomas and Black River.

Koontz’s golden retriever Trixie was often on his book jackets and even wrote two books, Life Is Good: Lessons in Joyful Living and Christmas Is Good. She was a service dog that had been trained by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a charitable organization that provides service dogs for people with disabilities, an organization that Koontz discovered while writing his book Midnight. Over the years, he helped the group raise $2.5 million in funds, so Trixie was their gift to him. So you can see why having a supercanine golden retriever in a story made sense to him — which is what Watchers is all about.

Watchers (1988): It’s a rivalry as old as time: a golden retriever with special abilities battling the mutated monster known as the OXCOM (Outside Experimental Combat Mammal).

The dog soon makes friends with Travis Cornell (Corey Haim) and his girlfriend Tracey (Lala Sloatman, who was dating Haim; she’s also the niece of Frank Zappa and is in Amityville: A New Generation). Of course, the government wants the dog back, so they send NSO agent Johnson (Michael Ironside).

This movie kills everyone it comes across, with either OXCOM or Johnson basically wiping out a small town, whether to kill or to keep the murders secret.

Amazingly, this was originally written by Paul Haggis, who would go on to write Million Dollar BabyCrash and yes, create Walker Texas Ranger.

Watchers II (1990): Hey, I think that Marc Singer — he’s the Beastmaster — and Tracy Scoggins — from Dynasty and The Colbys — are fine replacements in this film that finds OXCOM and a golden retriever still battling one another.

Singer is a Marine gone AWOL. Scoggins is an animal psychologist from the top secret laboratory and the OXCOM still is a goofy rubber suit. And sure, this may be the same movie we just watched, but when has a sequel being the same as the first movie ever stopped us?

Screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris used the name Henry Dominic — the same alter ego they’d use for Bloodfist IIFlight of the Black AngelThe UnbornSevered Ties and Mindwarp — as neither were members of the Writer’s Guild of America. Brancato and Ferris would go on to write The Game, as well as The Net.

Thierry Notz also directed The Terror Within which makes a lot of sense once you see this movie.

Watchers 3 (1994): Oh yes, this third one was shot in Peru, executive produced by Roger Corman and has one of my favorites, Wings Hauser, in the middle of the never-ending war between mutant and mongrel. Yes, this time it’s the deformed Outsider, which lives only to kill, battling Einstein, a golden retriever with an IQ of 175.

To stop the monster, Hauser is put in charge of a squad of military men and criminals. Now if you’re thinking, “Would Roger Corman rip off Predator?” let me just say that yes, he would. He did. And he would do it again.

Written by the same man who penned Carnosaur 2, let me tell you, I will regret nothing on my deathbed except probably the time I spent watching this movie. Eh, who am I kidding? I’d watch it again if you asked with any nicety in your tone.

Watcher Reborn (1998): You know what you never realize as a kid? As bad of a director as George Lucas can be, he’s one of the few people able to reign in the hammy tendencies of Mark Hamill, who plays a detective in this one who has just lost his wife and son to a fire that was probably caused by a mutant because that’s how it goes.

Lisa Wilcox, Alice from A Nightmare On Elm Street 4 and 5, plays the scientist who introduces him to a golden retriever, this time named Alex and being not as smart as he was the last time, only having an IQ of 140. This one also has a pit bull and the man who ruined Night Gallery in syndication, Gary Collins, so you know that my heart is on the side of the animals and not the humans. I’m also on the side of all murderous mutants, because as Emily Dickinson wrote, “The heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care,” and we’ve gone about proving this inscrutable wisdom true ever since.”

Low Rawls — yes, the man who sang “You’ll Never Find Another Love like Mine” — has a cameo as a coroner, so if you ever get asked, “What do Lucio Fulci and Lou Rawls have in common?” and a gun is at your temple, I have provided you with the knowledge that will save your life.

Director John Carl Buechler ran Corman’s special effects team for some time before directing movies like DemonwarpCellar Dweller and Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood.

Should you watch the Watchers movies? Look, I don’t want to tell you what to do with your life. I mean, you could also ask, “Should you watch a hundred Jess Franco movies in one month?” The answer is always going to be yes for me as I try and get the highest of movie highs, no matter how bad the strain seems to be.

WATCH THE SERIES: Ator

Conan the Barbarian and its success just meant that Italians could go back to making the peplum films they made for more than a decade in the 50s. The locations were there, the props were easy and all it took was the germ of an idea to send tons of Italian filmmakers out and about to make their own sword and sorcery movies, like Franco Prosperi’s Gunan, King of the Barbarians and Throne of Fire, Umberto Lenzi’s Ironmaster and Michele Massimo Tarantini’s Sword of the Barbarians.

For my money, no one made a better barbarian movie on a smaller budget than Joe D’Amato with his Ator films. Made from 1982 to 1990, three of these four films were filmed by D’Amato under his David Hills name. The other one was directed by Alfonso Brescia and D’Amato didn’t like it! As for actors, the first three feature Miles O’Keeffe and the fourth has Eric Allan Kramer as his son.

Instead of just being a big dumb lunk like Conan is in the movies — we can discuss Conan being a thief in the books and comics any time you’d like — Ator is also an alchemist, scholar, swordmaster and even a magician who can materialize objects out of nowhere.

We’ve pulled together our past reviews of Ator’s films, added some content and put them all in one place to introduce you to these astounding movies and hopefully get you watching them.

Ator the Fighting Eagle (1982): Once, Ator was just a baby, born with the birthmark that prophesied that he’d grow up to destroy the Spider Cult, whose leader Dakar (a pro wrestler who appeared in Titanes en el Ring against Martín Karadagian) tries to kill before he even gets out of his chainmail diapers.

Luckily, Ator is saved and grows up big, strong and weirdly in love with his sister, Sunya. It turns out that luckily, he’s adopted, so this is only morally and not biologically upsetting. His father allows them to be married, but the Spider Cult attacks the village and takes her, along with several other women.

Ator trains with Griba, the warrior who saved him as a child (he’s played by Edmund Purdom, the dean from Pieces!). What follows are pure shenanigans — Ator is kidnapped by Amazons, almost sleeps with a witch, undertakes a quest to find a shield and meets up with Roon (Sabrina Siani, Ocron from Fulci’s batshit barbarian opus Conquest), a sexy blonde thief who is in love with him.

Oh yeah! Laura Gemser, Black Emanuelle herself, shows up here too. It is a Joe D’Amato movie after all.

Ator succeeds in defeating Dakkar, only to learn that the only reason that Griba mentored him was to use him to destroy his enemy. That said, Ator defeats him too, leaving him to be eaten by the Lovecraftian-named Ancient One, a monstrous spider. But hey, Ator isn’t done yet. He kills that beast too!

Finally, learning that Roon has died, Ator and Sunya go back to their village, ready to make their incestual union a reality. Or maybe not, as she doesn’t show up in the three sequels.

Ator is played by Miles O’Keefe, who started his Hollywood career in the Bo Derek vehicle Tarzan the Ape Man, a movie that Richard Harris would nearly fist fight people over if they dared to bring it up. He’s in all but the last of these films and while D’Amato praised his physique and attitude, he felt that his fighting and acting skills left something to be desired.

Ator the Fighting Eagle pretty much flies by. It does what it’s supposed to do — present magic, boobs, sorcery and swordfights — albeit in a PG-rated film. It’s anything except boring. And it was written by Michele Soavi (StagefrightThe ChurchThe SectCemetery Man)!

You can watch it on Tubi in either the original or RiffTrax version.

Ator 2 – L’invincibile Orion (1984): Joe D’Amato wanted to make a prehistoric movie like Quest for Fire called Adamo ed Eva that read a lot like 1983’s Adam and Eve vs. The Cannibals. However, once he called in Miles O’Keefe to be in the movie, the actor said that he couldn’t be in the film due to moral and religious reasons. One wonders why he was able to work with Joe D’Amato, a guy who made some of the scummiest films around.

Akronos has found the Geometric Nucleus and is keeping its secret safe when Zor (Ariel from Jubilee) and his men attack the castle. The old king begs his daughter Mila (Lisa Foster, who starred in the Cinemax classic Fanny Hill and later became a special effects artist and video game developer) to find his student Ator (O’Keefe).

Mila gets shot with an arrow pretty much right away, but Ator knows how to use palm leaves and dry ice to heal any wound, a scene which nearly made me fall of my couch in fits of giggles. Soon, she joins Ator and Thong as they battle their way back to the castle, dealing with cannibals and snake gods.

Somehow, Ator also knows how to make a modern hang glider and bombs, which he uses to destroy Zor’s army. After they battle, Ator even wants Zor to live, because he’s a progressive barbarian hero, but the bad guy tries to kill him. Luckily, Thong takes him out.

After all that, Akronos gives the Geometric Nucleus to Ator, who also pulls that old chestnut out that his life is too dangerous to share with her. He takes the Nucleus to a distant land and sets off a nuke.

Yes, I just wrote that. Because I just watched that.

If you want to see this with riffing, it’s called Cave Dwellers in its Mystery Science Theater 3000 form. But man, a movie like this doesn’t really even need people talking over it. It was shot with no script in order to compete with Conan the Destroyer. How awesome is that?

You can get this from Revok or watch Cave Dwellers on Tubi.

Iron Warrior (1988): 

I always worry and think, “What is left? Have I truly exhausted the bounds of cinema? Have I seen all there is that is left to see? Will nothing ever really surprise and delight me ever again?” Then I watched Iron Warrior and holy shit you guys — this movie is mindblowing.

Alfonso Brescia made a bunch of Star Trek-inspired Star Wars ripoffs in the late 70’s, like Cosmos: War Of the Planets, Battle Of the Stars, War Of the Robots and Star Odyssey. Before that, he was known for working in the peplum genre with entries such as The Magnificent Gladiator and The Conquest of Atlantis. And some maniacs out there may know him from his Star Wars clone cover version of Walerian Borowczyk’s The Beast — complete with the same actress, Sirpa Lane — called The Beast in Space.

Today, though, we’re here to discuss Brescia taking over the reins of Ator from Joe D’Amato after Ator the Fighting Eagle and Ator 2: The Blade Master. I expected another muddy cave dwelling movie livened up only by nukes and hang gliders. What I received was a movie where a frustrated artist was struggling to break free.

This movie goes back to the beginning of Ator’s life, where we discover that his twin brother was taken at a young age. Now, our hero travels to  Dragor (really the Isle of Malta) to do battle with a sorceress named Phaedra (Elisabeth Kazaand, who was in the aforementioned The Beast) her unstoppable henchman, the silver skulled, red bandana wearing Trogar (Franco Daddi, who was the stunt coordinator for both Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and The Curse), who is the Iron Master of the Sword.

Princess Janna (Savina Gersak, who was in War Bus Commando) and Ator (the returning Miles O’Keefe) join forces and man, Janna’s makeup and hair is insane. She has what I can only describe as a ponytail mohawk and has makeup that wouldn’t be out of place on the Jem and the Holograms cartoon.

Imagine, if you will, a low budget sword and sorcery film that has MTV style editing, as well as gusts of wind, constant dolly shots and nausea-inducing zooms. It’s less a narrative film as it is a collection of images, sword fights and just plain weirdness. Like Deeva (Iris Peynado, who you may remember as Vinya, the girl who hooks up with Fred Williamson in Warriors of the Wasteland) saying that she created both Ator and Trogar to be tools of justice? This movie completely ignores the two that came before — and the one that follows it — and I am completely alright with all of it!

Supposedly, D’Amato hated this movie. Lots of people hate on it online, too. Well, guess what? They’re wrong. This is everything that I love about movies and proved to me that there is still some cinematic magic left in the world to find.

How about this for strange trivia? When they made the Conan the Adventurer series in 1997, Ator’s sword was repainted and used as the Sword of Atlantis!

You can buy this from RoninFlix.

Quest for the Mighty Sword (1990): If there’s a 12 step group for people who watch too many Joe D’Amato movies, well I should be the counselor, helping talk people off the ledge after they think they need to watch Erotic Nights of the Living Dead or Eleven Days, Eleven Nights or…hell, I can’t do it. For all people heap scorn on the movies of the man born Aristide Massaccesi, I find myself falling in love more and more with each movie.

D’Amato hated what Brescia did with his creation, so he starts this one off by killing Ator and introducing us to his son. Obviously, Miles O’Keefe isn’t back.

This one has nearly as many titles as Aristide had names: Ator III: The HobgoblinHobgoblinQuest for the Mighty Sword and Troll 3.

That’s because the costumes from Troll 2 — created by Laura Gemser, who is in this as an evil princess — got recycled and reused in this movie. D’Amato proves that he’s a genius by having whoever is inside those costumes speak.

Let me see if I can summarize this thing. Ator gets killed by the gods because he doesn’t want to give up his magic sword, which he uses to challenge criminals to battles to the death. The only goddess who speaks for him, Dehamira (Margaret Lenzey), is imprisoned inside a ring of fire until a man can save her.

That takes eighteen years, because Ator the son’s mother gave the sorcerer Grindl (the dude wearing the troll costume) her son to raise and the sword to hide. She then asked him for a suicide drink, but he gave her some Spanish Fly and got to gnome her Biblically in the back of his cave before releasing her to be a prostitute and get abused until her son eventually comes and saves her because this is a Joe D’Amato movie and women are there to be rescued, destroy men and be destroyed by men.

This movie is filled with crowd-pleasing moments and seeing as how I watched it by myself, I loved it. Ator (Eric Allan Kramer, Thor in the TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns and Little John in Robin Hood: Men In Tights) looks like Giant Jeff Daniels and his fighting skills are, at best, clumsy. But he battles a siamese twin robot that shoots sparks, a goopy fire breathing lizard man who he slices to pieces and oh yeah, totally murks that troll/gnome who turned out his mom.

This is the kind of movie where Donald O’Brien and Laura Gemser play brother and sister and nobody says, “How?” You’ll be too busy saying, “Is that Marisa Mell?” and “I can’t believe D’Amato stole the cantina scene!” and “What the hell is going on with this synth soundtrack?”

Here’s even more confusion: D’Amato’s The Crawlers was also released as Troll 3. Then again, it was also called Creepers (it has nothing to Phenomena) and Contamination .7, yet has no connection with Contamination.

Only Joe D’Amato could make two sequels to a movie that has nothing to do with the movie that inspired it and raise the stakes by having nothing to do with the original film or the sequel times two. You can watch this on YouTube.

While there have never been any official Ator toys, check out the amazing custom figures that Underworld Muscle has made:

Thanks for being part of all things Ator. Which of the movies is your favorite?

WATCH THE SERIES: Eleven Days, Eleven Nights

You have to hand it to Joe D’Amato. Most people would just make one ripoff of 9 and 1/2 Weeks. Instead, Joe stretches his series of three films out to 33 days, which is a little under 5 weeks or around half as much time as its inspiration and there’s some goofy logic to that.

Actually it’s seven movies I learned after writing this, so that means that Joe hit 77 days, or 11 more than the 66 days of 9 1/2 weeks, so the numerology all works out, right?

While Adrian Lyne had Sarah Kernochan, Zalman King and Patricia Louisianna Knop to write his screenplay, Joe makes due with the team of Rossella Drudi and Claudio Fragasso for the first film. And what a film it is.

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights (1988): Sarah Asproon (Jessica Moore AKA Luciana Ottaviani AKA Gilda Germano, who also appears in Sodoma’s GhostConvent of Sinners and Top Model) is writing a book about her last one hundred lovers, but she’s only had ninety-nine. Then she meets Michael on a boat and despite the fact that he’s about to get married (Mary Sellers plays his fiancee Helen and you’ve seen her in StagefrightGhosthouse and The Crawlers), she makes him agree that they will be lovers for — everybody yell out the title — eleven days and eleven nights.

There’s an actual budget to this film and it was shot in New Orleans, so it has an American feel, which is exactly what late 80s Italian movies were shooting for. There’s even a moment where the couple go see Stagefright in a theater and Michael falls asleep, waking up to Helen remarking, “What a beautiful film. So touching! So romantic!”

So yeah, this movie has a honey scene just like the film that inspired it, but I kind of like this one better. D’Amato is at his best when he’s shooting gorgeous women being gorgeous and Moore is, well, one of those reminders that there just might be a God somewhere. A reminder that there may not be is the acting by her co-star Joshua McDonald and the horrible ending where she tells him that he was just being used to be in her book but fell in love, so he bends her over, takes her roughly from behind and leaves her for his boring fiancee. For a film that spent most of its running time with a heroine in charge of her sexuality, this was massively upsetting.

The moral: Don’t look for Italian sexploitation movies to have good messages.

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 2 (1991): D’Amato and Drudi reteamed for this sequel in name only, even though the character of Sarah comes back. Now she’s played by Kristine Rose and has been married and separated and given the new job of the executor of the estate of Lionel Durrington, one of her past lovers and the richest man in Louisiana.

Guess what? This is actually the third film in the series because Sarah was the lead character in Top Model, which is also listed in plenty of places as Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 2. Look — it wouldn’t be Italian movies if it wasn’t confusing.

There are four heirs and one after another, they all get with our heroine, who will determine which one is worthy of the money based on how good they are in bed, one supposes. Sonny is the only one with no interest in Sarah, even when she danced for him at a strip club, but that’s because his last girlfriend was abused in front of him by friend of the family Alfred, who is also trying to get the money.

Because Italian films really don’t care about how insane or twisted — actually, this is what they run toward not from — things get, Sarah disguises herself as Sonny’s old lover and goes to the impotence institute and gets a rise out of him.

By the end, she realizes that no one deserves the money, so she comes up with a plan. She’ll write a book about the family and its secrets while they split the $500 million with a mystery person. They quickly sign and yeah, the mystery guy is the man who was supposed to be dead and we have a happy ending. We also have Laura Gemser in the blink and you’ll miss it role of Sarah’s jogging publisher and Ruth Collins from Lurkers, Doom Asylum and Prime Evil show up.

For a movie about people getting naked, D’Amato has plenty of women in sweaters show up. I’m all for this.

Also: This has also been listed as The Web of Desire and Eleven Days, Eleven Nights Part 4 because Italian movies are wonderful and confusing.

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 3 (1989): Also known as Pomeriggio caldo (Hot Afternoon), this film points to the genius that is D’Amato. Instead of just making a sexual thriller — trust me, it still has plenty of sex — he worked with writer David Resseguier — who has to be a pen name for someone — to create this downright weird story of heading to New Orleans and just fading into it.

Someone says, “This is a place that paralyzes you. You don’t fall in love with a person here, but rather you become grossly obsessed with the environment. It’s not like our world.”

That’s what this movie is about, as well as the fact that a young reporter has come to the French Quarter to write about Nora, a woman who just lost her husband to voodoo. He takes along his wife, who plays a game with him where he encourages men to try to bed her while having no real interest in her. This predictably backfires and she leaves him for a muscular voodoo man — I am not making this up — and he starts going insane realizing what he’s lost. And oh yeah — he also gets to bed Nora, which seems like a way better thing than pining for someone he never really cared about.

Every actor in this movie is horrible and wonderful, often within the same scene, and it has an odd pace and overall sadness that keeps it from being fully erotic, which is awesome when you think about it. The scenery is great and then Laura Gemser shows up just to dance at a voodoo ritual and all movies should have her show up and dance and then get back to the story. Every one of the Disney Star Wars movies would be incredible if the woman who is forever Black Emanuelle would show up and writhe in a sweaty frenzy and then wave goodbye.

Seriously, I fell in love with this movie, which is kind of like a sexier — well, is that movie even sexy? — The Beyond with no house but a much more erotic bathtub scene.

Top Model (1988): Remember when I said there was another Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 2?

This time around, Sarah (Jessica Moore from the first movie) is still writing, but she’s gone undercover as a call girl, which was suggested by her publisher Dorothy (Laura Gemser). Using the name Gloria, she quickly becomes the top girl — some would say the top model — until someone figures out her secret and begins blackmailing her, which makes no sense as she’s already famous for a book where she slept with a hundred men.

She’s also got a crush on an IT guy named Cliff who thinks that he might be gay. I mean, if Jessica Moore is all over you and you need to question it, I’m not stepping on any LGBTQ landmines by saying that yes, you are gay. It’s fine, it’s a great choice and it’s probably what Cliff ends up choosing as the couple is divorced by the time the second part two in this series comes around.

But hey — how about that theme song?

To prove that America is the most puritanical country there is, there was an R-rated Top Model version made just for U.S. cable with still scenes replacing the lovemaking in motion and any reference to Cliff perhaps being gay cut from the film.

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 5: Dirty Love (1988): I mean, this movie is totally Joe D’Amarto making Dirty Dancing and casting Jeff Stryker and  Valentine Demy, who went from waitressing to lingerie model to D’Amato star while she was 17.

D’Amato also throws Fame and Flashdance into the ripoff magic blender and emerges with a movie that has the sex those movies were missing and so much more to spare. Demy plays Terry, who leaves behind a small town where her father wants to pick out her husband and doesn’t want her to dance, so Footloose too?

This movie packs in all the sleaze you imagine that a Joe D’Amato movie called Dirty Love should have. In a world where movies don’t live up to their names or posters, for the most part Joe outdid himself every time.

If you’re watching this and wondering, “Where have I seen Robert before?” He’s Aimee Mann’s jerk of a boyfriend in the ‘Til Tuesday video for “Voices Carry.”

Bonus points for Laura Gemser showing up as a masseuse (and the costume designer).

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 6: The Labyrinth of Love (1993): Valerie (Monica Seller, Dangerous AttractionMadnessLegittima Vendetta) travels to Saigon to work for a family that she soon seduces. I mean, the whole family. The matriarch. The widower. The grandfather. The gay college student? All of them.

I have no idea why a movie set in the 1930s is in the Eleven Days, Eleven Nights series, but you know, I tend to forgive Joe D’Amato all manner of things. Even when a movie is slow when it should be red hot eroticism, I say things like, “That’s a nice shot” or “I mean, Joe did make Buio Omega.”

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 7: The House of Pleasure (1994): Lord Gregory Hutton (Nick Nicholson, who somehow was in both Apocalypse NowPlatoonThe Firebird ConspiracyWar Without EndSFX RetaliatorBorn on the Fourth of July and Beyond the Call of Duty, which means he either made up his IMDB listing or man, he’s been in the highest of the war movie highs and the lowest of the low) goes to the Far East on his honeymoon with his wife Eleanore. They stay on a silk farm and Eleanore falls for Lin, the young man of the house (Marc Gosálve, who is also in D’Amato’s China and Sex and Chinese Kamasutra).

This is one of those movies like Emmanuelle where a young wife finds her sexuality while her husband watches, but this has the technology of 1994, which means video cameras. And hey — Joe went to Asia to shoot this (along wih Tales of Red Chamber, China and SexThe Labyrinth of Love and Chinese Kamasutra), so there’s some production value.

For all the negativity heaped on the films of D’Amato, when he’s getting the opportunity to tell these simple stories and shoot beautiful women to some sexy sax, he always delivers. Are these movies essential watching? Or course not. Are they better than they should be? Definitely.

Thanks to Adrian on Letterboxd for transcribing the Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 3 quote above.